Talking about the finest coffee in the world is a bold undertaking, as individual preferences and tastes influence it. Crowning the best coffee in the world is a contentious issue and will always remain so. Nevertheless, I will put forth my perspective on the matter.
Determining the ultimate coffee is challenging as it varies from person to person.
It is undeniable that coffee stirs passion among people, whether due to its invigorating effects or its rich aroma and flavor. If five coffee specialists were asked to provide a list of their five favorite coffees worldwide, it’s unlikely that they would concur. Thus, this list is subjective, like with many other matters of taste.
Does price determine the quality of the world’s best coffee?
If so, we would already have a clear winner, the Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak owes its name to an Indonesian civet known as Luwak.
This animal feeds on the fruit of the coffee tree and, it is said, can choose those at the exact point of ripeness. In addition, its body only processes the fleshy part of the fruit, so the coffee bean remains intact after digestion.
Combining the civet’s capacity to select the best coffee cherries and the subsequent fermentation process results in the creation of beans with a distinctive aroma and taste that gourmet consumers highly value.
Some claim that the outcome is a coffee with a very low acidity level, even lower than that of Blue Mountain, with lingering chocolate or caramel aftertaste.
So, is Kopi Luwak the best coffee in the world or not?
I’m afraid I have to disagree. Many people, including myself, who have tasted it were let down. Although civet coffee is regarded as the finest coffee bean globally and one of the priciest by many experts, numerous people are unsatisfied upon trying it.
It is clear that quality has to be paid for, but just because a coffee is more expensive does not mean that it is the best. Other elements, such as its rarity, the difficulty of its production, or its scarcity, increase the price of coffee.
At a farm in East Java, I was given the opportunity to evaluate their lots of coffee, which they had separated into sizes: large, medium, and small. On this farm were caged Luwaks that fed on the exact same coffee, which was also included in the cupping. After cupping the four samples, it was apparent that Luwak coffee sold for the story, not superior quality.
Using the SCAA cupping scale, the Luwak scored two points below the lowest of the other three coffees. It would appear that the Luwak processing diminishes good acidity and flavor and adds smoothness to the body, which is what many people seem to note as a positive to the coffee. The medium-sized coffee, as an aside, scored the best due to overall flavor and balance. It was a full four points above the Luwak version.Rocky Rhodes
Determining the product’s origin, whether it is produced from the feces of wild animals, is challenging. All indications point towards an estimated annual production of around 50 tons. That is the entire certified world production, so this rarity makes it the most expensive but not necessarily the best.
Many counterfeits do not use wild civets. For the product’s price, civet farms have been created where the animal is suffering to obtain this type of grain.
For me, Kopi Luwak is more than a high-quality coffee; it is a luxury product with all this means.
Civet coffee has already established itself as the most expensive coffee in the world in the minds of consumers, making it an object of desire and a synonym of status, where people drink it not for its intrinsic quality but because they can afford it.
What are the best coffees in the world?
We commonly come across brands claiming to sell “the best coffee in the world,” but the truth is that this is a marketing strategy to attract more clients and, at the same time, offer a much more expensive product.
To discuss the finest coffees in the world, I will not delve into brand names, individual farms, or specific production regions. Instead, I will concentrate on the key coffee-producing nations that produce top-notch coffee, representing the best coffee globally.
For me, there is no such thing as the best coffee in the world; if there were, it would not always be the same.
The harvest is another key factor in enjoying a good cup of coffee; for example, if the coffee producers were successful for one year, they could offer quality beans. However, this does not mean that they will have the same luck the following year since any eventuality can occur that could put the crop at risk, and the coffee will be of lesser quality.
Top 5 countries that produce the best coffee in the world
1. Colombia 🇨🇴
The Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC) was established in 1927 to protect and promote Colombian coffee, which is now one of the largest industries in the country and is exported to many countries in Europe as well as Japan and the United States.
The FNC created the fictional character Juan Valdez to represent the Colombian coffee grower, which helped increase demand for Colombian coffee.
The FNC then registered the Juan Valdez logo to license to roasters for use on their products which contained 100% Colombian coffee and also registered “Colombian” coffee as a certification mark to ensure minimum quality standards.
By 2004, consumer awareness of Colombia as a coffee-growing country had risen to over 90% in key markets.
- Its coffee is cultivated in the three mountain ranges across the country at an altitude between 1,200 and 1,800 meters.
- The variety cultivated in this country is only Arabica, the most appreciated for its flavor and aroma. It has a very high-quality bean due to its tropical climate and the fact that the fields are located at high altitudes.
- The beans are harvested by hand, which further improves their quality. The coffee has a smooth, aromatic, and fruity taste with medium acidity.
2. Costa Rica 🇨🇷
The highest quality coffee is grown in the south of Costa Rica at an altitude of between 1,300 and 1,650 meters. As does Colombia, all the coffee grown in Costa Rica belongs to the Arabica variety.
In 1989, Costa Rica implemented a law to produce only high-quality Arabica beans and banned Robusta beans, showing its dedication to coffee excellence. This law was lifted in 2018 but reflected the country’s strong focus on producing high-quality coffee.
The harvests are carried out on fertile volcanic soils at an altitude of between 800 and 1600 meters above sea level. It is not the country that produces the most coffee, but its quality is among the highest.
Here they faithfully follow a philosophy with which we agree: quality is better than quantity, ensuring that each of the beans extracted by hand is of the highest quality and has the best characteristics.
On many occasions, it has been stated that the best coffee in Costa Rica and the world comes from Tarrazú. As we have said, there are different colors for different tastes, but without a doubt, it is a great coffee. This Arabica is of high quality, and its beans, bluish with a flat and elongated shape, give a coffee with a good body, floral aroma, and high acidity.
3. Kenya AA 🇰🇪
Kenyan coffee beans are a staple in the coffee world, loved for their intense flavor profile and rich aroma. Many coffee drinkers rank Kenyan coffee as one of the five best coffees in the world.
Depending on the size of the beans, Kenyan coffee can also have a sweet characteristic, with Kenya AA being the recommended choice for its sweet taste. The grades of Kenyan coffee beans, which refer to the size of the beans, include Kenya E (Elephant Bean), PB (Peaberry), Kenya AA, AB, C, TT, T, and MH/ML.
Kenyan coffee beans grow at elevations of 1,400 to 2,000 meters, which qualifies them for Strictly High Grown (SHG) / Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) status. This high elevation means the beans develop slowly and with more nutrients, contributing to their high-quality taste.
There are five distinct varietals of Kenyan coffee beans – SL 28, SL 34, K7, Ruiru 11, and Batian – each with its unique flavor profile.
Producing Kenyan coffee beans involves wet processing, which removes the green, unroasted bean from its outer shell. This type of processing results in a cleaner taste and lighter body once brewed while maintaining the high acid content Kenyan coffee is known for. Kenyan coffee shares similarities with Ethiopian coffee, with many coffee drinkers comparing the dry, acidic aftertaste of Kenyan coffee to that of Ethiopian Harrar roasts.
4. Guatemala 🇬🇹
The coffee industry in Guatemala has a rich history dating back to the mid-1700s when coffee was first introduced to the country as an ornamental plant. However, it wasn’t until the 1860s, when the country’s economy needed a new industry, that coffee production took off.
The government encouraged the growth of coffee plantations, and the crop quickly became the country’s largest export. Guatemala is one of the top 10 largest coffee-producing countries in the world.
The coffee industry in Guatemala is well-organized, with over 125,000 producers and the support of Anacafé, the national coffee association. Anacafé is responsible for marketing, research, and financial support for new and existing farmers, as well as improving the lives of farmers in rural areas.
Guatemala has a diverse climate ideal for coffee production, with 7 main growing regions, including Antigua, Huehuetenango, and Atitlan. Each region has unique growing conditions and microclimates, leading to different flavor profiles in the coffee produced.
Coffees from Antigua are known for their sun-grown, smooth flavor, while Huehuetenango produces complex, fruity flavors due to its high altitudes. Coffees from the Atitlan region are nutty and chocolaty in flavor and are often processed using water from the surrounding lake.
5. Ethiopia 🇪🇹
Ethiopian coffee is considered one of the best in the world for its unique flavor and aroma profile. Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa and the fifth-largest coffee producer in the world, producing 4.2% of the world’s coffee. With the government’s plan to triple coffee production in the next five years, the country is expected to harvest 1.8 million tons of coffee by 2024.
The coffee beans grown in Ethiopia have exciting flavor profiles and are known for their complexity, pungent aroma, winey quality, and distinct acidity.
The key coffee-producing regions are Sidamo, Limu, Yirgacheffe, and Harrar, each producing coffee beans with distinct flavor profiles. For example, Yirgacheffe coffee beans are generally high-toned with floral and citrus notes, while Harrar coffee beans are known for their heavy body, spiciness, and fragrant aroma.
Ethiopia takes the quality of its coffee seriously and imposes certifications and standards on coffee farms that wish to sell their beans.
The country is a leader in promoting sustainable agriculture and has certifications such as FairTrade, Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and Rainforest Alliance (RA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Utz certification. These certifications ensure that the coffee produced in Ethiopia is of high quality and sustainably produced.